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Rightsizing Your Home

How to reshape your house for the way you live now — and take control of your future.


— Photos courtesy of Gale Steves

family’s needs and varied activities. Often, the key to discovering good, usable space is decluttering  — clearing out furniture and other items that have accumulated over the years. Visualize how the room would look, and then create a floor plan to work out the furniture changes before you begin to move things around.

Take that seldom-used living room, for example. It could be a new office for a home-based business with easy access to the front door.  Or it may make a perfect “chat room” for quiet conversations when the great room is otherwise occupied with sound and music. If Grandma is coming for an extended stay, could it be reconfigured as an easy-access, main-floor bedroom so she doesn’t have to climb the stairs? Can the first-floor powder room be expanded to a full bath just for her? She might enjoy helping in the kitchen if she didn’t have to reach so high for things stored in the wall cabinets, if she could work while sitting at a counter. Maybe some cabinet reconfiguration and pullout storage accessories are in order. Wouldn’t these rightsizing changes make sense for your own aging-in-place strategy?

Many more possible scenarios can be addressed with rightsizing so you can stay in your home for life (see “Rightsizing Strategies” below). All it takes is honest analysis, a little imagination and the will to change things for the better.

Rightsizing Strategies


Need More Office Space

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Consider the underused living room, dining room, absent children’s room, basement or attic space.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Be sure to plan for more than a desk — you’ll need storage space and possibly meeting space. Are there enough outlets in the right places? Internet access? How will you manage the wires?

Need Studio or Hobby Space

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Think about basement space, absent children’s rooms and laundry rooms.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Consider proximity to a sink or water lines that enable you to easily install a sink. Remember that you’ll need enough space for not only spreading out and working but also storage of supplies and finished work. How will you contain dust, waste and chemical odors?

Add Accessible Quarters for Elderly Relative

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Think about the living room, dining room or other available space on the first floor.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Can you create an accessible bath on the first floor by expanding a powder room? Be sure to check universal design standards. Is there a door to the sleeping room to assure some privacy? Consider the issue of  clothes storage, as well.

Add Quarters for a Boomerang Child

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Provide space in a walk-out basement that will provide privacy and a separate entrance. The space above a garage may be an alternative.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • The childhood souvenirs need to be moved to make room for adult possessions. Change the bedroom into a bed/sitting space with a sleep sofa.

Need Easier-to-Manage Kitchen

Typical Rightsizing Options

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Elevate appliances, such as a dishwasher, so they can be easily reached. Lower a countertop surface if more comfortable. Move china and glassware storage to lower cabinets. Install cabinet inserts so that food and supply storage spaces come to you, not you to them.

Need Quiet Space to Read and Relax

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Think about a living room, dining room or roomy bedroom.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Add a small sofa or chair and ottoman to a well-lit space where you can control the adjacent noise.

Need More Storage Space

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Under the stairs, wide hallways and garage cabinets can free up crowded closets.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Cull through your possessions. If you do not use something frequently, move it elsewhere. But be sure to label it so you can relocate it easily.

Need to Move Laundry Out of the Basement

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Move laundry to where it is produced near the bedrooms.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Convert a linen closet with a stackable unit or take over part of a bathroom. Disguise it behind closed doors.

Convert Powder Room Into Family Bath

Typical Rightsizing Options

  • Think about stealing some space to allow for a shower on the main floor.

Do It Right, Do It With Flair

  • Reduce the traffic to other bathrooms by expanding the powder room to include a shower.


Gale Steves is author of Rightsizing Your Home: How to Make Your House Fit Your Lifestyle (Northwest Arm Press). She writes about home design issues.

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